If you blinked, you might have missed her. Francesca Hogi was the first person voted out of Survivor: Redemption Island, and the first person ousted from the game after she lost a duel. But even though she only lasted three days on her tribe, what an impression she made — going right after Boston Rob and then sparring with Phillip Sheppard about (among other things) the pronunciation of her name. I loved Francesca in our Redemption Island pre-game interview and was thoroughly bummed when she was booted so early. So I was pleasantly surprised when I learned she was being brought back to play again for Survivor: Caramaon — Fans vs. Favorites (premiering Feb. 13 on CBS). However, there is one person who will not be watching Francesca play — herself! The fan of the show could not bear to watch her last outing on TV and claims she has no plans to do so this time around either. Just days before filming began last May, I spoke with Francesca about her feud with Phillip (which The Specialist discussed right here), what she learned from her last brief outing, and the awkwardness of being mistaken for another black female contestant.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Okay, this is absurd. Nobody in this entire world has given you more public props than I have, but a person voted out first being asked to come play again?
FRANCESCA HOGI: You are my biggest fan, and I am so grateful, but yeah, exactly! I mean, I knew some people liked me and some people were sad to see me go so I could see how they might put a feeler out to have me back, but they’re not really going to cast me! And so I just figured it’s not going to happen. And now I’m like, oh, s—, it’s actually happening! This is great!
EW: And this is exciting Francesca because you have the opportunity to make history. Survivor has only one two-time winner in Sandra. What if you become the first person to be voted out first — twice?!?
FRANCESCA: You know what I’m looking for? I’m looking for the most improved Survivor award. So I want to go from being the first person off in my first season to being the last person standing in my second season. That is the goal.
EW: You know what they call that? Worst to first!
FRANCESCA: Worst to first! That would be amazing, right? Everybody loves an underdog and a comeback story.
EW: So tell me why you’re gonna win this time?
FRANCESCA: Well, because I’m not going to be stupid.
EW: You mean you’re gonna keep your mouth shut on the first day.
FRANCESCA: Yeah, I made a bunch of major mistakes the first time and one of them was thinking that logic would appeal to everyone, and that people behave in their own self-interests. And that’s just not the case. When I said what I said about Rob and Russell I thought I was just saying what everyone else was thinking. Of course we’re all thinking this! When Rob said on the first day on the beach, “You know, you guys, I know I have no shot at winning this game. I’m not here to win. I just love this game and I just want to help you guys win.” And everybody was like, “Oh my God, Rob is amazing. He is just here to help us win.” And I was like, “Um, yeah, that’s not true.” And they were all like, “No, no, it’s true.” I should have recalibrated at that point when I saw what was happening. I just assumed I had time to put myself in a better position and I learned the hard way you can’t take a single day for granted out there.
EW: The one advantage you have is that when people come back to play others can judge them on their body of work and whom they backstabbed and lied to, but you didn’t even have time for anybody to say “Watch out for Francesca.”
FRANCESCA: I know, it’s great. There are much bigger threats, seemingly, than I am. So hopefully they’ll be focused on the people they already know can do well in this game.
EW: On the flip side, are you worried that some of the other players may have no idea who the hell you are? Like Probst will be all, “Here’s Francesca!” and they’ll be like, “Who?”
FRANCESCA: Well, yes. It’s funny you say that, because we all saw each other today for the first time and I saw Erik Reichenbach, who I’ve met before. The first time I met Erik, he came up to me and said “NaOnka!” And I said, “No.” And he said “Oh, am I pronouncing it wrong?” So I was like, “I am Francesca, the other black girl that was on Survivor.” So I don’t want people to mistake me for NaOkna because then they probably would really not want to play with me. But there’s a good chance they’ll be like “Ummm, Cirie?” and just throwing out random other black women who played Survivor.
EW: Are you ready to handle round two with Phillip?
FRANCESCA: Oh, God. I’m certainly not looking forward to it, but there are a lot of big personalities here and there are a lot of people for Phillip to clash with so hopefully he’ll find someone else to unleash his crazy on. As you know, last time I completely took the bait with Phillip and every time he said something ridiculous I had to counter it because I just couldn’t believe he was saying the things he was saying. And I’m just not going to do that. I’m not going to engage him. At least that’s the plan.
EW: Is it a good thing or a bad thing to have three Redemption Island players back in the mix?
FRANCESCA: Under normal circumstances it could be perceived as a bad thing, but I don’t think anyone believes Phillip and I are going to be teaming up. They might think that about me and Andrea for sure. But we’ve got Dawn and Brandon and Cochran from South Pacific so they obviously have a connection due to that and you never know what sort of relationships have formed outside of the game. For all I know Brenda and Corinne could be best friends. I have no idea. I’ve never spoken a word to Corinne.
EW: What about the group in general and how you think it plays for you?
FRANCESCA: I think it’s a pretty good group for me. Phillip is the glaring exception. He’s not someone I want to align myself with under any circumstances. But someone like Brandon, I met him once and he seemed like a great guy. But he played very erratically before. That might just be who he is, so I’m a little wary of him. Cochran obviously has a really bad reputation for flipping on his alliance, but from watching the way that season went I kind of didn’t blame him for doing it because he never felt secure in that alliance and they were so horrible to him. And he seems like a very logical person, so Cochran is someone I feel I might be able to work with. Brenda played a very aggressive game the first time she played, but she was very loyal to her alliance. Obviously I played with Andrea and we got along really well. I never had any personal problem with Andrea, so that’s potentially promising. I have no relationship with Dawn. She seems lovely. There are so many variables. I don’t know if we’re all going to be on the same tribe. I’m assuming we’re not. So I don’t want to get too wedded to how I want things to go because everything could be turned on its head in a moment.
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